Jeremy Clarkson Is the UK's Only Real Rock Star
He might be a dick, but that's more than you say for anyone in Clean Bandit.
Rock stars are dangerous, drunk, high, dying or dead. They want to destroy the system. To finger your loved ones. To throw up in your hat and not even hang around to watch you put it on because they'll be gone, like a sandstorm, doing drugs somewhere else, wearing sunglasses in a room with no windows or sun, reminding society that their precious norms are guidelines, not rules.
As long as rock stars have been around, the media has hung off their collective leather duster. And, in fairness, they deserve the adoration, their debauchery inspiring cultural narratives that are discussed in pubs around the world, pored over by greying music journalists on TV schedule Polyfila, programmes with names like The 50 Moments in Rock History Most Likely to Reevaluate Everything You've Done with Your Life.
Only, right now, something weird is going on. Look around you and there are no headlines about the raucous behaviour of rock stars. Instead, one face keeps cropping up. That face, like a sentient pile of loose skin. That face, like someone's strapped an English bulldog into a medieval stretching rack. That face, everywhere. Newspapers, websites, social media, radio, TV – every conceivable outlet is devoted to reporting something he may or may not have done, said, smoked, punched, insulted or eaten. Or, more accurately, not eaten.
The nation's favourite rock star narrative belongs to one man, and he isn't actually a musician. He's Jeremy Clarkson, a man who's just been suspended from a show about burning fossil fuels for reportedly hitting another man after a disagreement about a meal.
Exactly what constitutes a rock star is subjective, of course, but one thing we can probably agree on is that, while it doesn't have to be rock, music is involved somewhere. But let's ignore that for now – mainly because it doesn't fit with this dick-fingered hypothesis – and look at Clarkson's other rock star credentials.
He's rich. Very rich. Like £30 million or so rich. Like all the best rock stars, he's made a wobbling stack of notes, most of which he seems to hurl at incredibly expensive cars that are too fast to be driven on British roads. Oh, and he's a dick. Like all rock stars, Clarkson is a dick. Pretty certain we can agree on this. He demonstrably doesn't give a fuck what you or I or anyone else thinks. He lives dangerously, albeit in a 250 mph sort of way, rather than a "I'll sniff it and see what colour my skin goes" sort of way.
He outwardly subverts the political system while benefiting hugely from it – by paying 5 percent less tax under this Tory government, for instance. Very rock'n'roll. He provides escapism from the humdrum. Like Noel Gallagher was for a brief time, he's chummy with a prime minister. He's unpredictable. He's ungrateful. Entitled. Arrogant. He's travelled the world offending entire nations. He looks a bit like Lou Reed peering into a circus mirror. With the petition to reinstate him circling 1 million signatures, it's clear that he's also startlingly popular. He even compared himself to a "rock god" on an episode of Michael McIntyre's chat show.
Now, in addition to all this, imagine Jeremy Clarkson had written "Lust for Life". See? Rock star. Like it or not, the curly Herman Munster fulfils the nebulous criteria of the rock star like no one else operating in the UK right now.
Marcus Mumford isn't every paper's lead splash today for calling the Archbishop of Canterbury a cunt, because he didn't. The one in the cap from Royal Blood probably won't be trending tomorrow for trying to see how much PCP he could do in one night, before catching a flight to Frankfurt and starting a fight with the pilot.
You may, however, be aware that Noel Gallagher's got an album out, because he's been in magazines, Saying Things. Rock is so on its arse right now that Gallagher – 47, father, millionaire – still gets column inches by saying "a thing" because no one else is saying or doing anything. New acts are happy to be polite, non-retaliatory sponges for his jibes. They all "love" each other's songs. British music would be infuriating were it not so soporifically, repellently dull.
There must be someone in the running for the title of the Great British Rock Star, though, right? Kasabian go on about "having it" all the time, but Kasabian have never divulged exactly what "it" is. It could be a croque monsieur, or a shower. Kasabian aren't rock stars, no matter how much they purport to be. They're men in their mid-thirties who make music for people who miss Oasis.
Pete Doherty – arguably the last true British crossover rockstar narrative – is clean, level-headed and getting on with it. Good for him. Lias of the Fat White Family has potential, but they haven't crossed over to Daily Mail-ruffling proportions yet. The same goes for Slaves. The only true rock star in music right now – carrying a lot of responsibility on his shoulders – is Kanye. But he's American.
As for Britain? Well, until the Fat Whites sell out Ally Pally, we've got Jeremy Clarkson, oaf of the roads, the second worst thing about Chipping Norton. He might not play any music. It might be physically impossible for him to die at 27. He might be a relic of a time where white actors dressed up in "yellowface" for the movies. But Liam hasn't ridden a dog in years, and it's highly unlikely alt-J or anyone from Clean Bandit is going to do something so outrageous it spawns its own Wikipedia page.
The idea of the British Rock Star is at its lowest ebb for 60 years, and music has got so boring that, for now, we're relying on Jeremy Clarkson, a 54-year-old millionaire, to keep its seat warm. Come on, Britain, try a little harder.
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